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POLICE records for the Stratford district reveal one of the few positives of lockdown: a dramatic drop in crime.
Along with most of the country, the district saw a third fewer crimes committed in the first lockdown around March and April 2020. This was largely driven by a decrease in thefts and burglaries.
After a brief upsurge in the summer, they again started to fall when Covid restrictions were reintroduced from November.
The overall crime rate in the Stratford district has fluctuated significantly during the last year, dropping down to a record low in January this year, when the number of reported crimes were averaged out at 32 per 1,000 people.
It’s not all good news, however. Some crime types – in particular drug offences and violent and sexual offences, which include domestic abuse – have seen a rise.
Although not always classed as a crime, antisocial behaviour has almost doubled during the last year. Some of this increase may be because fines have been issued for Covid rule-breaking.
Speaking about the unique difficulties of enforcing the law during the last year, Assistant Chief Constable Alex Franklin-Smith, of Warwickshire Police, told the Herald: “Policing during the pandemic has presented numerous challenges, not least dealing with new and rapidly-changing legislation while also making the necessary arrangements to protect our own workforce.
“While the vast majority of people in the county followed the restrictions in place to protect themselves and others, throughout the pandemic we have seen a minority willing to disregard them and place their communities at risk.
“We have taken action where necessary to respond to that through engagement, explanation, encouragement and enforcement. As restrictions ease, we will continue to take this approach to support the roadmap back to a more normal way of life, ensuring that the restrictions still in place are policed effectively to protect against the risks that remain.”
The force is also now looking at ways of tacking those crime areas that are potentially on the up.
Mr Franklin-Smith said: “During periods of lockdown, recorded crime fell across England and Wales, and that was seen here in Warwickshire too. We have seen reductions in several key crime areas, including residential burglary, car crime, serious violent crime and robbery as criminals had less opportunities to commit offences.
“Domestic abuse has been a key area of focus for us during lockdown, with people spending more time at home. While we have not seen a significant spike in these offences,we continue to monitor this closely and have worked with partner agencies across the county to make sure that information about support services has been readily available. During this time we have also undertaken proactive activity to tackle drug offences across the county.”
He added: “As we come out of lockdown, we are already seeing demand returning to pre-Covid levels. I can assure everyone that we have robust plans in place to deal with the anticipated upturn in crime and that we will continue to deliver day-to-day policing as we work alongside our partners locally and nationally to respond to what we hope are the end stages of the pandemic.”
A more sinister area of crime that has flourished during lockdown, with many people spending more time online, is cyber crime, which Mr Franklin-Smith said the force was keen to clamp down on.
He said: “We have seen a constant reporting of cyber-crime to Action Fraud, and every one of those incidents has been investigated by Warwickshire Police and all those reporting incidents have received cyber security advice. We continue to work closely with the National Cyber Security Centre and Warwickshire County Council in delivering a wide range of ‘Protect’ initiatives, including activity focused on Black Friday, romance fraud and CyberAlarm, a free monitoring tool.”
Dog theft is NOT on increase
Despite widespread speculation that dog thefts are on the increase, crime statistics do not back up the public’s fear.
In fact, in the last year there were 15 dog thefts recorded by Warwickshire Police from March 2020 to February 2021, four less than the 12 months previously when 19 dogs were reported stolen.
Inspector Allison Wiggin, force lead for Rural Crime, said: “We completely understand the devastating impact the theft of a cherished pet can have on both the owner and the animal.
“Thankfully, dog thefts are still low in our area but we are working hard to prevent offences and investigate those that have been reported.
“We take all reports of dog theft seriously and will act on any information provided. If anyone does witness any suspicious activity, please report it to us.”
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